The Big Blue (15)

Review by Jack Foley

LUC Besson's The Big Blue has become one of the most popular French films of all time... and rightly so. This heartfelt movie is a frequently moving, visually stunning tale of two boyhood friends, turned diving rivals, who push each other to ridiculous limits in search of the perfect dive.

Starring Jean Reno and Jean-Marc Barr, Besson's movie represents arthouse movie-making told on an epic scale and the underwater photography is stunning (both Barr and Reno can dive deep without the need for an aqualung), frequently compensating for some of the lapses in storytelling.

The movie was a hit in France from the moment it was released, but US audiences failed to buy into it, hence its shorter running time and a different ending (later restored for the now obligatory director's cut). It has since become a cult classic, loved and loathed in equal measure.

Not everyone will appreciate its developing story - that Barr's gifted but sensitive Jacques could put his passion for swimming with dolphins before his love for Rosanna Arquette's pregnant insurance agent (and the ending is open to much ambiguity) - but for me, this is what makes the movie so special.

It is far removed from the mainstream, taking in some splendid European locations and told on the grandest, most surreal scale - the movie was filmed over eight months on locations from the Riviera to Sicily, Corsica, Paris, New York and The Virgin Islands. You can virtually guarantee there won't be a happy ending, as tragedy seems to be waiting around almost every corner.

It is also wonderfully performed, with Barr making a suitably sympathetic 'quiet hero', Arquette as kooky as ever, and Reno stealing all of his scenes as the larger-than-life Enzo, who brings some much needed light relief, as well as a certain amount of sadness.

The Big Blue is the type of film which is suited to the Big Screen, such is its scale - a dream sequence involving Barr and the dolphins is particularly beguiling - but it continues to command a special place in the hearts of many movie-goers and is a welcome addition to any DVD collection in spite of its limited extras.